Category Archives: brand

When the ‘social context’ becomes ubiquitous

I start seeing more articles that emphasize the social  ‘features’ over the social ‘network’ (also see my post Increasing relevance by adding social networking features). This video on FriendConnect shows some examples and makes the difference more obvious.

I love Nova Spivack’s comparison to cars and how the choice of a Social Network will come down to personal preference (ultimately determined by brand). For this to happen the Social Networks will have to open up and support a common base feature set. This is already happening today but will accelerate. I’m convinced that soon most of our online activity will be aware of our friends and that ‘social context’ will lead to a more relevant user experience:

  • Amazon book and NetFlix movie suggestions based on what your friends like
  • Craiglist and ebay items from friends of friends
  • Search results ranking enhanced by sites friends clicked on
  • Yelp reviews and ratings from friends rather than 200 strangers
  • News that your friends have read

Things to think about:

  • ‘Friend’ is probably to strong a term. What are better terms? How will this evolve over time?
  • ‘Soocial context’ brings trust. Trust brings economic opportunities.
  • How can the 2nd and 3rd degree be used especially on commercial sites (LinkedIn is already using this)?
  • When will large retail sites grasp the concept and what kind of opportunities will arise?

And the big question is:  How can the Social Networks be open (interop) and closed (privacy) at the same time?

The importance of the fitting room

I went clothes shopping today for the first time in several months. Such a long break is unusual as I like to shop but much appreciated by my bank account. Total damage: $303 for 2 button down shirts, 2 polos, a sweat-shirt, a long sleeve shirt and a pair of shoes. I gave my money to Guess, FCUK, Zara, Banana Republic and Skechers (via DSW). I’m a total sucker for Guess and FCUK but it’s the first time I found something at Zara.

I realized how important the fitting rooms are as that’s where the buying decision is ultimately made. And some stores can definitely improve on that front.

Top lights are bad

The direct light from ceiling mounted spot lights is terrible. It overemphasizes the structure of the fabric and creates drop shadows for every fold. Also it gives the face a spooky look. Indirect light from behind the mirror is much better.

Mirrors – size and position

The mirror has to be big enough so that I can easily see my entire body. I like it when there is an angled mirror behind me so that I can get a 360 view.

A the DSW shoe store they had these small angled mirrors mounted to the seats. You can see the shoe and your leg up to your knee. It allows you to see if the shoe matches your pants. But it doesn’t allow you to see if the shoe matches your style. I couldn’t find any full size mirrors anywhere. I ended up not buying a pair even though I liked how it matched the pants. I was convinced it doesn’t match my personality.

Customer vs. guest vs. client

At the checkout at DSW the employees called for the next ‘guest’ rather than ‘customer’. This must be a policy as they consistently did so. Now I understand that some companies don’t want to call their customers, well, customers as the term implies:

  • buyer of product
  • source of money

But being called a ‘guest’ felt wrong. Especially at the checkout where I turn into a customer as I’m handing them my money. I can’t be fooled into thinking that it’s a privilege to be at the store or that they just want me to be there without buying anything. It makes more sense for a hotel or restaurant as they’re hosting you for an extended period of time. Please don’t call me a guest at a shoe store.

In-N-Out also has some special name for their customer. I can’t remember it right now though.

Know your audience – and spell check your creative!

I recently received a newsletter from AT&T thanking me for choosing AT&T and stressing how lucky they are to have me as a customer. This was immediately followed by an invitation to visit a store! No special offer, reward or anything. But that’s not the point here.

The headline reads “lucky. glücklich. chanceaux.”.

Congratulations on being international! The French translation is obviously wrong and should be “chanceux” unfortunately. I’m the first one to admit that foreign languages are tricky but screwing up a one word translation takes some skills.

Why German and French? What about Spanish and Chinese?

What I don’t get is why they picked German and French. This would make perfect sense in Switzerland but not in the US. Spanish and Chinese would have been more powerful in addressing important local populations. Note: The newsletter closes in Spanish with “Muy afortunado!”.

Further reading: I wrote about another AT&T marketing blunder not too long ago.

The Real Yellow Pages, Really?

I just heard the AT&T ‘real yellow pages‘ commercial on the radio which reminded me that I wanted to write about the corresponding billboard campaign a while ago. Who came up with the idea that anyone cares about the ‘real’ yellow pages? I’ll give up ‘real’ for ‘relevant’, ‘accurate’, ‘up-to-date’ or ‘easy to use’ anytime. Consumers don’t care about real in commodity products.

Why does AT&T still care about their printed yellow pages? Are the listing fees/ads generating a significant amount of revenue? According to AT&T their pages are referenced 4 billion times annually. I wonder what the corresponding CPM is. And do businesses compare this to running their own search result ads?

In fact, who is still using yellow pages? With the Internet at your finger tips with more complete and current information it’s hard to imagine still sifting through a paper copy. Granted there is an online version at but I prefer or that include consumer feedback, links to the official web site and a map.

The ad campaign should have been built around ‘complete’, ‘comprehensive’ or ‘most referenced’. Make the consumer feel like she’s missing something by ignoring these yellow pages. Reserve ‘real’ and ‘original’ for fashion and luxury items.

Wrapping up 2007

Reading my last post makes me laugh. After proclaiming to be back 9 months ago I’ve gone silent again. I’m giving it another shot. I realized that I’m spending a lot of time consuming and processing information without actually publishing – verbally or in written form – the outcome. A co-worker said a few months ago: Output, not input. This has stuck with me ever since and I’m trying to improve my input to output ratio.

The end of the year is always a time of reflection on the last 52 weeks, missed opportunities and what to do better next year. I think I’m typically too critical of my own achievements. 2007 has been an eventful year and I’m really happy with where I am. I’m always striving for more though and the slow pace of evolution sometimes causes dissatisfaction.

I’m enjoying the predictions for 2008 that surface on various blogs. And of course the analysis of last years predictions. It is a great way to do a review of what has happened. Often thought of as a silly game, predictions are in fact a result of deep reflection on the near to mid-term future and enable you to position yourself for success. Makes me think: I guess I’ll have to write up my own predictions.

Similarly New Year’s resolutions are a conscious analysis of your current situation and what you want to improve. Unfortunately the execution often breaks down. The act of coming up with resolutions is still worthwhile. I’ve decided to build my own Global Microbrand in 2008. It’s about being remarkable and such…

I just realized that I’ve been reading Hugh MacLeod and Seth Godin (see links above) since September 05 (or longer). Inspiring quality content kept me subscribed for so long. Rock on!

This Is How ze frank Is Getting Rich

Slowly but surely I’m getting sucked into the show with ze frank. I just spent $70 on three meaningless products. One is supposed to become a Christmas present (if I don’t like it too much myself).

This reminds me that I have to get a t-shirt too. I love Groove Salad!

In related news: I finally used Amazon for the first time in my life. I’ve been on the Internet forever (over 10 years) and have used other online stores and do online banking but I was a Amazon virgin until two days ago!

Unreal Beauty – Companies Turning Nice

This Dove “commercial” got me thinking [via Coolz0r*]. The idols we’re looking up to and measuring us against are not real anymore! So how can we live up to the challenge?

I remember when Dove took regular (as in real) women as models for their ad campaign a few years ago. A brave move. And it must have worked as they’re continuing down that route. It is refreshing to see a company fighting the extreme that the fashion and beauty industry have become.

Safeway is also trying to save our values (and us). I read on a milk carton last week something along the lines of “Eat dinner with your family”. They forgot to mention “Turn off your TV first”. I’ll post the details of that campaign later.

I do appreciate the efforts of the two companies even though I am a little skeptical (and cynical) about the campaigns. Both companies are clearly trying to position themselves as the consumers’ friend that is looking out for them.

Kaiser Permanente has already achieved this image. The sun screen booth at a concert in Golden Gate Park was simple, ingenious and felt totally authentic.

How long will it take Safeway to change their image? Also read this BusinessWeek article on what Safeway has been doing and is doing for its image.

* Yes, I’m subscribed again, but the pictures still don’t show up in Yahoo! Mail’s RSS reader

The PC Guy is Everywhere!

You know the Mac commercials with the PC Guy and the Mac Guy. I had to laugh pretty hard when I read the following story about the background of the actors a while ago [via Gizmodo]:

Radar interviews John Hodgman, you know, the PC Guy from the Apple ads. And reading it makes me feel just stupid. You know he works for the Daily Show, but did you know he’s a full fledged NY Times Magazine editor and writer, and was a reporter for NPR’s This American Life? Justin Long, the Mac Guy, is best known for working with Lindsay Lohan in Herbie Fully Loaded, Vince Vaughn in Dodgeball, and his cameo on That 70′s Show. Well then.

The writer in John Hodgman was reading out of his new book “The Areas of My Expertise” in San Francisco last week [via Metroblogging San Francisco]. I haven’t heard anything about the book and I’m definitely curious.

Google’s Brand Mantra

From Innovation and brand extensions on What’s Your Brand Mantra?.

Virgin = rebel = Richard Branson. Richard sets out to do something rebellious in whatever industry he chooses to enter. The Virgin brand is based not around what Richard does, but how he does it.

The second part sounds a lot like Google with its various products that seem to be lacking an overall strategy. It’s been a while since Google released a revolutionary, industry changing product. But the public perception of Google is still: cool and innovative.

Read more on brand extensions and if they work or not. Jennifer brings up Google further down in the post. In my opinion, the Virgin example makes a stronger point even when applied to Google.

Google is an innovation machine, generating a lot of new ideas that may or may not fly, but they all hang under its mission of organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and usable.

What does your brand stand for? And how can you improve it?

Note: I’m following several Marketing related blogs as I’m convinced we will see radical changes in that area in the coming years (and it has already started). It’s great to read what some professionals in this field are experimenting with.